> NTSTROEM Songs and Piano music IMCD007 [RB]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Gösta NYSTROEM (1890-1966)
Songs and Piano Music

Det Enda [Ebba Lindkvist] (1950)
Ur Ångest - Åtta dikter [Pär Lagerkvist] (8 songs) (1923-8)
Ur Musiken till Stormen [Shakespeare] (3 songs) (1940s)
Sånger vid havet [Ebba Lindkvist] (5 songs) (1943)
Prelude Pastoral and Valse Marine for solo piano
Gunvor Nilsson (mezzo-soprano)
Erik Risberg (piano)
rec Goteborgs Konserthus, Aug/Sept 1990
INTIM MUSIK IMCD 007 [63.45]


Gösta NYSTROEM 100 År - 100 Years

This is, I believe, the first mixed collection on CD of the songs and solo piano music of the Swedish composer, Gösta Nystroem.

The seventeen songs are grouped into Åtta dikter ur Ångest, Ur Musiken till Stormen, the better known Sånger vid havet and several isolated songs including Vårnatt and Det Enda the latter usually heard in the context of what I regard as Nystroem's chef d'oeuvre, the Sinfonia del Mare.

Gunvor Nilsson draws on both power and reserve. Her performance of Det Enda is nothing short of operatic. Whether you regard her vibrato as an expressive device or a barrier to pleasure only you can decide. Personally I would have welcomed a greater stability in the voice. She reminded me of Elisabeth Söderström in her recording of Sibelius's Luonnotar, the Decca one conducted by Ashkenazy. There her voice, though still recognisable, resorted to a wobble I found at odds with the character of the music. This registered sharply in Det Enda. Nilsson 'acts' her songs, responding, as far as one can tell given that the words are printed only in Swedish, to the meaning of what she sings. Her intelligence is never in doubt nor is her command of dynamic and emotional range. Listen to the protesting outrage in her voice in Jag hår ett hem vid havet which evaporates into the motion of the float-drifting seawrack from the Nystroem's 1946 Sinfonia del Mare.

The range of the songs is wide. There is the seasonally affective sadness of the Nordic depressive in Åtta dikter ur Ångest. Det Enda is the indelibly memorable song and motif-anchor from Sinfonia del Mare. The songs from The Tempest are often flighty - two of the three are Ariel songs. The sea-loneliness of Sånger vid havet contrasts with the pop/cross-over of Vårnatt - that Vilja/Lili Marlene soundalike. Vårnatt would have been a gift to Marni Nixon, Gisela May and Cleo Laine as a mixer in a Weill music-theatre recital or cabaret sequence. It has about it a whiff of the honeyed nostalgia of the Vienna of Jan Kiepura and Maria Jeritza. Irresistible. Two songs from Sånger vid Havet are specially worthy of mention. Ute i skaren recalls the Britten setting of This ae Night in his Serenade and Havets visa is a robust vignette of the extrovert life-embracing sections of Edvard Munch's 'dance' canvases.

There are two solo piano pieces both extremely well done by Erik Risberg. The Prelude Pastoral is no blushing recessional. Virtuosic anger and almost hatred fliskers and flashes through the piece set amid a suggestion of a pilgrimage through a lichen-hung forest. The Valse Marine is aristocratic and harmonically far less ambivalent than the Prelude. It is a companion to the lighter song Vårnatt. Chopin and perhaps de Falla are the influences in the waltz. I did not catch any of the oceanic atmosphere impled by the title.

I hope that there is more to be heard of both Gunvor Nilsson and Erik Risberg. Both know their way around these pieces. Their interpretations show the utmost sensitivity. Nystroem would have been proud of them.

Sporting only Swedish texts and background notes this CD must have been made with only the Swedish market in prospect. That is a pity but it is no real barrier to the value of the disc.

Things are looking up for Nystroem. Recently (January 2002) Daphne have issued a CD entirely dedicated to his songs review. Phono-Suecia had Svetlanov conducting the Del Mare with Charlotte Hellekant (the same soprano as the Daphne disc). I will not be surprised to see recordings of the unrecorded symphonies (Shakespeariana and Tramontana), the Violin Concerto and even the opera Herr Arne's Penningar. I will know that he has 'arrived' when the Sinfonia del Mare is heard at the New York or Berlin Phils or at the BBC Proms. That Symphony has the power to astonish and move. Music of that 'speaking' quality demands to be heard.

This Intim disc is for those enthralled by Nordic song and by Nystroem's regretful, nostalgic, silvery voice. A new generation is thrilling to Scandinavian song championed by Anne Sofie von Otter and Solveig Kringelborn. They should seek out both this very valuable disc as well as the Hellekant Daphne.

Rob Barnett

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